Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Mystery of Mustard, or "Where does Dijon Mustard REALLY come from???"

Okay, so I haven't been blogging lately, because I have been visiting family in Canada. More specifically, in Saskatchewan. This is a province in Canada in a region called the Prairies, located somewhere in the middle, between the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba. Saskatchewan is a bread basket province, where grain and other foodstuffs grow in abundance, producing the raw materials that feed the city's supermarkets. From what I have heard from the locals, this vast land is home to the largest producer of canola (which makes canola oil, one of the healthiest oils after olive oil) and mustard seed in the WORLD. In fact, I heard these factoids from my sister-in-law.

Now, as a former nutritionist, I was somewhat already aware that canola is one of Canada's major food products, and I think even bottles of canola oil on supermarket shelves bears the words "Product of Canada" on them. But how about mustard?

What my sister-in-law Pat told me is that mustard seed is shipped as a raw product to various places in the world, including to France, specifically to Dijon, where they are legally allowed to make Dijon mustard. Apparently not anyone can make Dijon mustard, only Dijon can. I suppose it is an appellation controllee issue, or something akin to it.

I'm all for regulations that protect locals from making products with their own place names and people not stealing place names. For example, I am happy that tequila only comes from Mexico and Champagne only comes from Champagne. But does Dijon mustard come from Dijon? Even if they make the mustard? If 100% of the mustard seed or even if 50% of the mustard seed comes from Canada? I'm not questioning the quality of the product - I'm happy to consume Canadian products and feel they are top-notch, but are consumers a little tricked when they read "Product of France" on a bottle of Dijon mustard when really the processing and the bottling is done in France?

This opens (for me) a wider subject and that is the source of agricultural products that go into our labeled products. I know in the case of wine that when I visited Germany and went to the Friedrich Becker estate that 50% of their vineyards were in France (300 meters from their winery) but they were making German wine. That was a little strange but not too upsetting since their vineyard was literally walking distance across the border from their winery. But what about these little rumors I have heard that sometimes juice is shipped from one country to another to make wine in that second country, to have it only labeled as made in the second country?

In the case of spirits, when I was in Austria we tasted some of the eau de vies made by a great spirits distiller who took all sorts of fruit and veggies and fermented them and distilled them into fantastic and fun eau de vies. He did classic ones like pear, apple, apricots and berries, as well as very different ones such as carrot and ginger. He owned a ton of hectares of orchards where he tried to produce most of his own fruit for fermenting and distilling, but he also sourced quality fruit for some of his brews. For instance, his ginger (the young, tender ginger) was from China. But here's the thing: his eau de vies are all "Product of Austria."

Of course this is all legal, but my issue is, if the consumer begins to love a particular product, the way I think we love Dijon mustard, aren't we being somewhat fooled into thinking the mustard seed is grown in beautiful yellow fields in Burgundy? Why can't we handle the truth of it being from the fertile fields of Saskatchewan? And why must we ship loads of seed all the way over to France to turn into little pots of mustards when surely we can process that sort of thing here?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Austria Part IV: A ton of pictures of Tuesday - Kamptal & Krems Day

We had spent Monday night in the Parkhotel in the small town of Krems. Tuesday morning, we headed to the estate of Johannes Hirsch, where we tasted the wines of Hirsch, Brundlmayer, Hiedler, and Schloss Gobelsberg.

Above is Michi Moosbrugger, winemaker at Schloss Gobelsberg. We are inside the tasting room here, which has bright natural sunlight coming in from the large windows that look out onto two important single vineyard sites, two mountains, one called Heiligenstein and the other called Gaisberg. These vineyard names are found in high end Rieslings and Gruner Veltliner bottlings from Kamptal producers.

Above shows the mountain Heiligenstein, which is composed of primary rock. Mostly Riesling grows there, as it does very well on a rocky soil. Below is another shot through another window of the Heiligenstein.

Below here is the Gaisberg. Mainly loess soil, so mostly there is a terroir for Gruner Veltliner.

After extensive tasting with the 4 producers, we had a great lunch in a vineyard. Below is one of our dishes - sweetbreads served with potatoes.

After the lunch, we got to go on a vineyard walk on the vineyard Kaferberg with Willi Brundlmayer. There were many terraced vineyards.

When we got to the top, we were surprised by a tasting of the Brundlmayer Brut Rose and Brut sparkling wines! Delicious. I tried to take artistic pics of this.

There was this nice structure built up there on top of the hill right in the vineyard where such tastings and maybe picnics could take place. Quite fancy!

Here is Willi Brundlmayer showing us the lyre training of the vines, the "V" shaped trellissing which allows for maximal sunlight exposure and also allowing the wind to blow through and dry the grapes after rains.

After all that we went to visit Salomon. We had to stay under cover as it was raining significantly. When the rain stopped, he opened his garage door and there was his vineyard right behind, rising up right in the town of Krems.

Here he is outside, after the rains have stopped.

After the tasting at Salomon, we walked in the old town part of Krems. This town has been around for over 1,000 years.

Below is me posing with our rep, Adam Zuckert from WineWise (distributor of Terry Theise portfolio in California).

We walked to this old Austria restaurant called Jell ("yell") and had ourselves a delicious pork filled dinner.

Below is the appetizer - homemade bacon/ham and a scoop of liver pate.

And our main course was roast pork with the cracklins, and then dumplings filled also with pork! There was also wild mushrooms and saurkraut.

These paired exeedingly well with the Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners that the winemakers brought, including some delicious 2002s and older vintages!

A Tale of Two Reds (and a White)

Yesterday was Saturday, and every Saturday at the store, we put on a big tasting with a theme. Yesterday's theme was barbecue wines, and we had 12 of them out to taste - 2 whites, 1 rose, and 9 reds. Two of these wines were my picks, a white: 2006 Hirsch Gruner Veltliner which has a cartoon of a deer with a bottle on its head and a wine glass upside down on each antler. Too funny. The wine is delicious, very fresh and bright with great acidity - very indicative of the Kamptal region where it is from. Didn't sell too many bottles of this wine - could have been price point ($16.99) or more likely, I don't think Gruner Veltliner shows well in tastings. Even I wasn't that impressed with most Gruners I tasted in Austria - it's like tasting one light, someone lean citrusy green wine after another... I think Gruners really show their stuff when there's food, at the dinner table, or even with munchies outside and sipping a Gruner. On a tasting, it just comes off as "just there." Though some folks did appreciate its zippiness.

Onto the reds. My one red contribution was an odd Australian wine: 2003 Paiko Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Red Blend (55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Petit Verdot). I believe it comes from Western Australia. Not only is the blend interesting, the price tag is also - $5.99 a bottle. This one ended up being sold out - 40 bottles sold yesterday. People seemed to like it. I think it is an okay wine, not bad. Not the best, but I guess no one expects a $6 wine to be the best thing they ever tasting, just something good for the price. I think it is. Hopefully we can get more of this wine.

Compare that to the wine I had for dinner last evening with rack of lamb - we decided to open something we have been saving since it was Saturday night and to be honest, I don't have a temperature-controlled wine fridge, so some of these wines are sitting in a dark cupboard. I feel the need to drink them before the summer is done. The wine was 2004 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape. Admittedly, I bought this wine from the store last year in the wintertime when the Wine Spectator named the 2005 Clos des Pape their Wine of the Year. Since we didn't have the 2005, I thought, the 2004 will do, especially since I heard this was a good producer overall.

The wine was very dense, with tons of red fruit, had significant barnyard/animal on the palate, and tons of spice. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would. It didn't seem to have depth or complexity, or anything that blew me away. Perhaps my expectations were too high? Or perhaps we opened this too young? Would it have been much better if we decanted? Or perhaps I don't really like Chateauneuf du Pape (anymore)? I don't know! I do recall this bottle was in the $80 range (like $87.99 thereabouts), so in conclusion, both Johan and I drinking this felt we probably wouldn't buy it again (we can't anyway - sold out - but just as an exercise we often wonder if we would buy again).

We did manage to finish the bottle though. So it was certainly a better wine than the $6 wine.

Hmm. Maybe we should have decanted...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Austria, Part III: Monday - a morning tasting and heading out of Vienna to the countryside

Monday morning, 4 days after my arrival to Vienna, I managed to make some time to go for a run through the city. This was my second and last run through Vienna, and I enjoyed seeing the city that way very much.

Afterwards, I joined a small group of others to attend the Women and Wine tasting, hosted by the female winemaker's group called 11 Frauen und Ihre Weine - "11 Women and Their Wine." What a friendly and beautiful group. The winemakers were charming and their wines were excellent. The tasting was held in a gorgeous old glass building in a park setting - it was like being in a solarium, and they hired a small band to play during the tasting. It was heavenly.

After that enjoyable tasting, it was time to return to the hotel, pack up, and board a bus to go visit the countryside. We were headed out toward the town of Krems, where we would be staying the evening, but first, we would visit a winery in the Wagram region and taste from three different producers.
This was a very modern winery and tasting room, nestled in the green rolling hills of the countryside.

After this tasting, we had some time to check into our hotel and take a short break. After that, we were scheduled to attend a party at Schloss Gobelsburg, an old monastery and winery that is about 2000 years old. The winemakers that are part of the Terry Theise portfolio in Austria banded together to make this wonderful party happen.
But first, a tour of the old monastery was in order:

They set up a party for us on the lawn - I felt like I was at a garden-style wedding reception. Indeed, this estate does host many weddings. They really out-did themselves here, making us feel really welcomed and pampered. There were wines galore, including some older vintages, and the food was amazing. It was a great way for us to get to know the winemakers and each other.

The following is a picture of the church which is just adjacent to the estate - it has this gorgeous steeple.

I didn't capture a picture of all the food, but I got this shot of the cheese plate. Everything was wonderful and exquisite. I had a really good time chatting with folks and enjoying the party. The day became more about the experience than the wine, and I was starting to learn how gracious and fun the Austrian people are. I also see them as who really appreciate beauty and the good things in life.

That was my Monday in Austria, and I have to say, it was a great Monday!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back from the Terry Theise Tasting

So I'm back from the Terry Theise tasting. Terry Theise is the German and Austrian expert who works with Skurnik wines, who import these wines and who also sent me to Austria a couple of weeks ago.

I was very happy tasting the Austrian portfolio, and I have to say, I enjoyed myself so much that I felt my objectivity was lacking. My favorite wines and my favorite producers from Austria took me back to that place. Putting those wines in my mouth literally transported me there. They took on a fantastic new dimension, and there is no going back. No longer are these Austrian wines simply an opening act for the Germans!

The German wines in the Terry Theise portfolio did not interest me as much. Exceptions were the offerings from two Mosel producers, Reuscher-Haart from Piesport and Martin Kerpen from Bernkastel/Wehlen. These portfolios I liked and I will be buying from the pre-offer. But aside from these, I liked the Rudi Wiest portfolio across the board more.

So back to Austria - I feel confident in bringing in Nikolaihof, Hirsch, Solomon, Prier, and maybe Sattler. So exciting. I feel my Austrian sales rising, this whole department growing. This next year will bring much to the Austrian department - I can feel it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dinner with Austrian wine - Gruner starting to seriously grow on me!

So last evening, Saturday, Johan and I joined friends Natasha and Peter at Wilshire, a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, to which both Natasha & Peter have been to, but we have not. They also said they enjoyed this great white Austrian wine from the wine list, which I guessed to be Gruner Veltliner, so of course I was looking forward to tasting this and seeing how it was.

We arrived to the restaurant before sundown, and entered a very dark, well-appointed room with a well-stocked bar and a dining area with cozy booths and tables. We got a corner booth, squeezed in, and Peter took out the bottle of red he had brought: 2003 Sattler Zweigelt.

We ordered the only Gruner Veltliner that was on the wine list - 2006 Salomon Hochterrassen Gruner Veltliner - they first brought vintage 2004 but I rejected it (hee hee) and they did produce a bottle of unchilled 2006. After a quick pop off with the screw cap and a satisfactory taste, it went in the ice bucket.

So we had red and white wine almost simultaneously, for sipping between courses and with our appetizers and mains. I had mussels in a curry broth for my appetizer while Johan had the steak tartare; for our mains, I had the braised short ribs served on mashed Yukon gold potatoes, while Johan had a seared duck breast. Natasha had the miso marinated black cod while Peter had hamachi (yellow tail) and a very fresh-looking salad. I enjoyed the Gruner Veltliner a lot. This is the second Gruner Veltliner I have had with dinner since I returned from Austria and I think I'm getting hooked! Who would have thunk it? It truly went with all my foods and was a great sipper in between. Sure, I switched over to some red while having the short ribs, but only briefly. I thought the acidity and fruit in the Gruner Veltliner was fantastic.

So I have to repeat, who would have thunk it? I didn't even really fall for Gruner when I was in Austria. I thought even on the last evening - ho hum, Austrian wine, yawn, give me some German Riesling please. But after returning home, something clicked. I missed my Gruner and started drinking it with meals.

Now I am starting to see why some people on the trip told me that they go through more Austrian wine than German.

This is how I see it: German Riesling - there is nothing nobler. Riesling is a noble grape variety, and there's no question about this, even from the Austrians - it's a grape that grows on vines that cling to the rocky hillsides like nothing else, and it can be cropped to low yields that provides some serious, serious stuff. Gruner, on the other hand, cannot be cropped to super low yields - it has to grow on some looser soil (in Austria, it is mostly found on this fine stuff called loess) while holds water and allows the Gruner to not get too water-stressed. (When it gets cropped to too low yields, the wine gets too concentrated, too high in alcohol and develops too many weird flavors, I have been told).

So Gruner is something simpler, you might say, than Riesling. It is something simple but damn good. Maybe it is like Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc - while not the mighty Chardonnay (which does damn great things in places like Champagne and Burgundy, and some might argue, other places), Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc can make for some pretty terrific, pretty tasty wines.

I think that's where Gruner Veltliner belongs. Up there with tasty terroir-driven, hand-crafted Loire-style Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. Gruner from its native Austria. Try some today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

2007 Germany - Rudipalooza Style!

Just got back from L.A.'s Rudipalooza - that's Rudi Wiest's tasting. This is the start of their vintage tour. They just got in from Germany yesterday, tomorrow they go up to San Francisco, then Friday down to San Diego then whirlwind across the country after that.

A lot of great producers down here this year, and I managed, after tasting 100 wines, to take pics with a few of them. Here is Dorothee Zilliken from Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken from the Saar region:

Dorothee is super sweet and also a very intelligent woman and I love her whole attitude. She is lovely to be around. I met her about a month ago when she did a tasting for us in the store. Wonderful person.

Here is the hottie: Mr. Tim Frohlich of Schafer-Frohlich. Sorry to be disrespectful by referring to his appearance, but I am still in the ether as I just left the tasting a couple of hours ago. Tim Frohlich makes some sensational lazer-beam awesome wines from the Nahe, and he rivals Donnhoff in the Nahe region. Here he is, Mr. Top Gun:

Here is the winemaker Michael, I forgot his last name, from Wegeler Rheingau:

Great tasting. Shown in this pic in the foreground is Felix Buerklin from Kunstler. The wines there showed excellent. I enjoyed in particular the 2007 Spatburgunder which I think I want to possess now. The one next to his is Johannes, the new rep from Robert Weil now that Karina Stuhler is staying home more with her new son. Next to him is Dorothee Zilliken, then next to him is Mr. Tyrell, who is the brother of the owner of the estate Karthauserhof. I can't see who is next after him but other stars that were present were Bert Selbach from Dr. F. Weins-Prum and of course Robert Eymael from Monchhof.

All in all, a great tasting of the highly lauded 2007 wines, which were all delicious and perfect in structure, although, for me, I also liked the 2006 and 2005 wines, so 2007 while fantastic, is not the end all and be all. I love the 2007s and will probably buy a ton nevertheless. right now the 2007s are being compared to the 1971s in that their clean fruit is tops - that is fantastic since ageability of these wines is so important.
Oh, I also got to taste a 1997 Gunderloch Nackenheimer rothenberg riesling Auslese that was really a pleasure. Always great to taste an older riesling!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Austria, Part II - Sunday at VieVinum

I last wrote about my Saturday evening party hopping from one great locale to another, tasting wine, eating food, chatting with wine people and all that good stuff. Above is a pictures of that Saturday evening party at the Palais Coburn.

Sunday morning, it was back at it at the VieVinum tasting, held at the Hofburg pictured above. We headed there together as a small group and began tasting the wines of the Wachau. These are perhaps the most famous of Austrian wines. The Wachau (pronounced VAK-COW) is a region of what is called Lower Austria (Niederosterreich) which is at the northern part of Austria, near Vienna. The southern and eastern parts of Austria have higher elevations, due to the Alps, so the flatlands in northern Austria are actually called Lower Austria. At any rate, the Wachau is unique in that it is right on the river Danube, and the warming effects of this large body of water contribute to a greater ripening of the grapes, giving wines of greater power and body (compared to other Austrian whites, which can be lighter and crisper).

It was here in the Wachau room of the tasting that I tasted my favorite wine on the whole trip, and met probably my favorite wine people (though there are other great people, which I will talk about later). The estate is Nikolaihof, an old, old estate dating back to the Roman days, and which is now 100% biodynamic. For those readers who are not familiar with the term biodynamic, it is a philosophy of wine growing that is one step beyond organic. It is completely 100% organic and beyond. In the biodynamic way of viticulture, one performs essential vineyard duties in timing with the earth and the moon - and there are specific tasks one performs that sound like voodoo to others; for example, filling a cow horn with manure and burying that in the ground at specific sites.

But mostly, biodynamics is the specific timing of certain vineyard activities such as planting of new vines, spraying with organic pesticides, things like that. Proponents of biodynamic viticulture suggest that their vines are healthier and able to withstand severe weather conditions, and produce wines with less vintage variation compared to conventionally grown vineyards.

I had tasted Nikolaihof wines before at large trade tastings, but I had mostly never realized the qualities of these wines. I only saw the price tags and got scared off, since I was mostly at these tastings looking for inexpensive Austrian wines I could easily sell, before moving onto more interesting German wines (these are at Terry Theise portfolio tastings held by our distributor, WineWise where Austrian and German wines are featured in the same mega-tasting).

After this trip, though, I am convinced that I need to carry the wines of Nikolaihof. Well, at least one of them.

The wine that took my breath away was the 1993 Nikolaihof Vinothek Gruner Veltliner. First off, I had never tasting a Gruner that old before - we are always going for the youngest and freshest of the Gruners. Also, I have heard that Austrians themselves tend to drink their wines young, so what this estate is doing, keeping wines for years and years and releasing them later, is completely different from the status quo. Second, I had the winemaker, Nikolaus Saahs Jr (pictured below), and his lovely girlfriend Katarina explaining to me that this wine was just bottled this year, after it had spent 15 years in cask!! Completely amazing. I don't have my detailed notes on this wine in front of me, but suffice it to say this is one complex wine with tons of flavor and layers and would rival any aged white Burgundy for stature and elegance.

The name "Vinothek" by the way, simply means "wine library" and is actually the common word for specialty wine store in Austria. We saw many vinotheks when we were traveling through parts of Austria.

Other revellations at the VieVinum fare included a Blaufrankish tasting we attended where I learned of a particular sub-appellation in Burgenland, home of the Austrian red wines, called the Leithaberg. The Leithaberg has a specific soil type which is rich in shell limestone and mica slate. This resulted from being beneath the ocean at some point in the ice age, and now is a deposit of limestone with little shell fossils embedded into the soil. Here, the loveliest Blaufrankish are made, with a beautiful and elegant nose that is reminiscent of red Burgundy, and the palate matches as well.

These Blaufrankish, made by 14 different vintners who have formed a joint association, are usually vinified and aged in old large neutral oak or acacia barrels that do not impart any wood flavor. The reason is that they want the flavor of the terroir to shine through. Now this is fantastic, because sometimes I don't like Blaufrankisch for the simple fact that it has way too much wood on the nose and the palate!

So the Leithaberg was also a great discovery for me at this wine fair.

As for the rest of Sunday, I did duck out and visit the historical art museum of Vienna, which houses some of the artwork that the Hapsburgs collected through their centuries of rule. I was particularly drawn to the Flemish paintings of the Bruegels, Jan van Eyck, Peter Paul Ruebens, and Rogier van de Weyden as I have seen the works of these artists in other museums, such as the Beaux Arts in Brussels.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Austria Wine Trip Part I: Days One and Two - Arrival to Vienna and Attending Vie Vinum

I left on a Thursday and arrived on a Friday morning to the city of Vienna. Surprisingly, it was hot - I estimate over 80 degrees. I immediately realized I packed wrong, expecting it to be the cool, sometimes rainy European-type weather. My black coat would not see the light of day.I emerged from the subway station at Stephansplatz, and saw before me the Stephansdom, a medieval church from the 14th century. It was quite a sight and probably the last medieval church I was to see in this city:

I got a little turned around until I finally found the direction toward my hotel, which was located in the center of town, in the 1st district, the Hotel Wandl, a rather nice place located in a gorgeous part of town, just blocks from the Hofburg, where I was about to attend Vie Vinum, the city's largest international wine tasting, which occurs every two years.

But Friday was the day before the opening of the wine fair, so I had time to wander and figure out the city. The city is fairly easy to figure out, with most of its sights within walking distance. I managed to find the famous Hotel Sacher, birthplace of the Sachertorte, Albertina Museum (which I never managed to go inside - something for next time), and the Staatsoper, the State Operahouse. At the Operahouse, I booked myself a guided tour inside in English. I didn't manage to make time to attend an opera, though, but it was tempting. Maybe next time.

After this tour, I did return back to the hotel in order to enjoy a nice, relaxing nap.

When I awoke, I got something to eat and continued to explore the city. I walked a different way and found myself drawn to a very green area with leafy trees. When I got nearer, I could see it was a park, and in the park, people were milling around kiosks, buying foods and drinking white wine. It seemed to be a food fair of some sort, a mini-farmer's market set up in the Stadtpark, and what struck me about this scene was the ease with which participants were enjoying a glass a refreshing white wine (and some were having rose) in the early evening in the park. Looked like great loads of fun. I didn't partake, but would have if Johan were with me. I noticed this of course because here in the United States, there is rarely an instance were wine is served in the park or at a market. Wine and beer seem very liberally served here:

It seemed like a very easy and enjoyable way of life.

The next morning, I managed to squeeze in a short run through part of the city. That was really refreshing. Following that, I attended the first day of VieVinum - the wine tasting in the city for which I was scheduled. This tasting takes place in the mighty Hapsburg palace in the center of town. The Hapsburgs ruled the Austrian-Hungarian empire for over 6 centuries. Over that period of time, they accumulated a great deal of wealth and distant lands. The Hofburg is but one of their palaces. It is very elaborate, and having a wine tasting in this ancient building was a treat. Of course, there was not really any air conditioning here, so the heat did not help the ability to taste, but we managed.

The Hapsburgs seemed very into chandaliers! There were many of them, and some rooms had very elaborate ceilings.

There were so many producers here, about 95% Austrian. Tons of Gruner Veltliner to be had, along with other favorite varieties including Riesling, Gelber Muskateller, Blaufrankish, Pinot Noir (which they do not call Spatburgunder, but more often, Pinot Noir, Blauer Burgunder, or Blauburgunder), Sankt Laurent, and Zweigelt.

I tasting some famous producers such as F.X. Pichler, along with some producers I would be visiting, such as Nikolaihof and Brundlmayer, and some producers I carry that are not imported by the importer that brought me to Austria (that would be Skurnik), and some producers that are not even imported to the United States at the moment. There was much to taste but there was no way I could taste through the millions of producers present. I did get a great overview though.

In the middle of the day, I did duck out to visit some touristy things, including the Lippizaner Stallions, the horses that originate from a Spanish bloodline that have been bred from from the 16th century to be the court horses for the Hapsburgs. I managed to get a standing-room ticket to their practice demonstration, which explained the training the that the horse and rider go through to learn how to pirouette and do other things, like stand on the hind legs. Very fun!

After that, I went to the Kaiserappartments, which are the Imperial Apartments of the Hapsburgs. This was okay. It was nice to see to have seen it but it very much resembled the sort of thing one sees at Versailles in France, and after seeing the rooms in which VieVinum was taking place, it was more of the same, but with furniture and silverware.

Later that same evening, I did meet up with others on the Skurnik trip, including the local California distributors, Adam and Brian from WineWise, and met some new people. We headed to two parties, one at Kursalon in the Stadtpark, and the second at Palais Coburn, a refurbished castle that the current owner bought for a mere $10 million Euro, but spent another $100 million Euro gutting and refurbishing it and another I believe they said $20 million stocking the 6 wine cellars full of trophy wines like vintage after vintage of Mouton and tons of other stuff which the bars and restaurants allow one to order. We got a tour of 5 of the 6 of these cellars; the one we couldn't tour was disallowed by the insurance people. I couldn't get any pics because flash apparently hurts old wines. We were also not allowed to stay in any cellar for too long lest our body temps raised the cellar temps to dangerously high levels!

Near midnight, we finally returned to our hotel, walking through the gorgeous streets of the city, including the lively Graben (meaning "ditch" - a wide city street that used to be a ditch) and the elegant Kohlmarkt.